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Nascita di Venere

The Birth of Venus is a painting by Sandro Botticelli, made in 1486. The goddess Venus (Aphrodite to the Greeks) emerges from the sea on a shell, like the myth that explains how she was born. Her shell of a boat is being pushed to shore from the winds that the Zephyr wind gods are blowing. As Venus is about to go to shore, a nymph is reaching out to cover her with cloth. This painting is one of the most legendary of the Renaissance.

In Renaissance times, Christianity was the main theme, and it was uncommon for paintings to depict nude women. It was seen as sinful lust. Naturally, it was quite odd that Venus was nude here. There are thoughts that Botticelli chose to make Venus nude because his contemporaries at the time were getting into ancient Greek art and Greek ideals of beauty.

Many aspects of the painting are in motion.  The roses floating, the water moving, her hair being blown by the Zephyrs, and the cloth waving in the wind give it a lively feel. Venus’s long golden hair might have been inspired by Penitent Magdalene, by Donatello.

The Birth of Venus has preserved very well over the course of many centuries. It remains bright and vivid today and there are very little cracks or sign of damage.

Stave Churches

During the middle ages in Northern Europe, a new type of church was being built. Instead of the towering stone monuments to God in France and Germany, Norwegians were building wooden churches for their places of worship. Stave churches follow a post and beam construction, similar to the layout of the ever so popular Stonehenge. 

There are variations on the types of stave churches that can be built. There is a Type A and a Type B.

Four heavy beams form the base of Type A churches. The connect at the corner notch. The corner posts are cross-cut a the lower ends and they fit over the corner notches. It gives complete protection from moisture. On the top of the beam is a groove, where the wall planks will fit. The last wall plank is wedge-shaped. The entire structure consists of frames. In the end, you have a sill frame on the foundation, four walls made of sills, corner posts, and a wall plate.

Type B churches have a raised roof. Four huge beams are placed like a # sign. The ends stick out, and they support the sills of the outer walls, which in turn form a separate horizontal frame. The posts on the inside are placed on the frame of the large beams, and carry the roof above the central nave. The wall planks rest on the frame of the outer sills. It carries the roof over the aisles. The roof then tapers down, like a basilica. This form of church is recognizable because of the holes in the ground that remain from past churches built on the same site.

The Urnes Stave Church is one of Norway’s oldest. It was built long ago in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It beautifully brings together traces of Celtic art, Viking traditions, and Romanesque architecture.

Urnes Stave Church, from the outside

The church, from the inside. This church is Type B.

Hagia Sophia

In English, Hagia Sophia means ‘Holy Wisdom’. Originally a church, at the time of construction, Hagia Sophia was considered the eighth wonder of the world. In the heart of Constantinople (today Istanbul), Hagia Sophia was the largest Christian church for centuries.

In the year 532, Emperor Justinian I commissioned Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Milet to pan out the building. Hagia Sophia was complete only a mere 5 years later, in 537. Justinian invested 145 tons of gold into the construction of the building.

After a year, the dome collapsed. The nephew of Isidoros fixed the problem by increasing the height of the buttresses, moving some columns, and rebuilding the walls.

In 1453, Sultan Mehmet II converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Christian symbols were replaced with Muslim ones, Christian icons were taken down, and the mosaics inside were hidden or plastered over.

Today, Hagia Sophia stands as a museum and an impressive feat in architecture.

Interior view of Hagia Sophia

Surprise Saturday - Ziggurats

On Saturdays I want to write about architecture/art from different eras, unlike how posts usually concern architecture from Medieval times.

Ziggurat (or ziqqurat) is Akkadian for “to build on a raised area”.

Starting in the Sumerian era, ziggurats were a common site to see. Ziggurats were temples built on top of older buildings that would crumble down. They would constantly just build these temples on top of each other. These ziggurats were thought to be the bridge between heaven and earth.

There were ramps on the sides of ziggurats to enter the top of the building where the temple was. The rest of the building inside was just rubble.

Ziggurats were built with seven levels to represent the seven heavens, seven planes of existence, the seven planets, the seven metals associated with the planets, and the corresponding seven colors.

Inside the ziggurats, votive figures were placed. Donors would give large amounts of money to help the ziggurats get built and to have votive figures made for them. On the underside of the votive figure, inscriptions were placed and it would describe good deeds that the donor had accomplished. It would grant them a seat in heaven.

Votive figures had large eyes so that they could maintain steady eye contact with the gods.

Ziggurats showed wealth, prestige, and stability of city rulers.

The ziggurat style of architecture is still very popular.


This is the White Temple of Uruk.

And this is the John C. Hodges library of the University of Tennessee. See any resemblance? 

There’s a myth that says that King Gudea of Lagash got the idea to erect a ziggurat when the god Ningirsu told him to, in a dream.

Ningursu was probably Thoth, who is pictured above, measuring a pyramid. In Egyptian art, Thoth appears as an Ibis or as a Baboon. 

King Gudea built a seven-tiered ziggurat named Eninnu. There was a big celebration that lasted for several days upon completion. 

St. Paul’s Cathedral, London (1675-1710)

Saint Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral in London. Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) designed 52 churches in London after the Great Fire of 1666 burned down almost all previous ones. Most of Wren’s churches were small and charming. Wren traveled to Paris to master his skills and get inspiration. He came back a year later and made this massive church that was certainly fit for a God.

This is technically the fifth St. Paul’s Cathedral, all built over each other after burning down from fires. Fifth time’s a charm, and the cathedral stands strong and steady with various colonnades (rows of columns), less wood and more lead, and stainless steel bands holding everything together.

The dome rises 366 feet with the lantern included. The church is very well known for it’s awe-inspiring dome, influenced by Michaelangelo’s St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.

An interesting look at the inside of the dome.


A modillion is a French term. Modillions are small brackets common in the Corinthian and Composite orders of architecture. They’re usually in the style of scrolls or Acanthus leaves, but are sometimes shaped like small blocks.

In Chinese architecture instead of a modillion it’s called a dougong. In German it’s called kragstein. In Latin it’s called corbel (derived from corbellus or corvus, meaning ‘beak-like’)

What is a dreiblatt?

The name of this tumblr is dreiblatt. A dreiblatt is German for ‘trefoil’. A trefoil is an ornamentation made of three rings, usually overlapping. It looks very much like a three leaf clover. It was a popular motif (repeated image) in Gothic times, which comes after the Romanesque period.


This is a trefoil from the Chapelle de Saint Hubert in Amboise, France. 

An intro to Romanesque Art

The term ‘Romanesque’ was coined in the nineteenth century to describe all art from Roman times until the start of the Gothic period. But today, the term applies to the eleventh and twelfth centuries in western Europe. 

Islamic religion died down, raids from the northern barbarians had stopped, and Christianity triumphed all over Europe. The last factor helped Romanesque art grow and develop so strongly. There was a growing spirit of religious passion, and it helped the art thrive.

Romanesque art reflected upon the religious dedication and activity that pretty much characterized medieval art from approximately 1050 until 1200.


Hey! This Tumblr is about good architecture with a focus on styles from Medieval times. Not only will we be posting cool artsy photos of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, but we will also be giving information about the buildings and places, enjoy

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